Rio de Janeiro may be an iconic destination, but many travelers have reported it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

Sure, it’s absolutely stunning from the outside looking in, but we have all heard of the city’s sketchy favelas as a place to avoid.

Well, the U.S. Consulate certainly isn’t helping their reputation with last month’s new travel security alert.

Rio may top the wishlists of many travelers, but Brazil is arguably the most diverse nation in Latin America, with far more to see than Copacabana Beach and the Christ The Redeemer statue.

Here are 7 reasons why you should visit this undiscovered region of Brazil over Rio:

No Beach Needed To Have A Blast In Minas Gerais

Panoramic view of Belo Horizonte cityscape

Beaches are in high demand right now and will be even more so in the coming months. There’s no beach in sight in Minas Gerais, the massive neighboring region of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janiero – the country’s top destinations.

Despite lacking sandy beaches, this sunny, mountainous region has remained under the radar for many travelers, yet it’s jam-packed with history, cultural sites, beautiful nature, and world-class nightlife.

It’s the type of place that doesn’t make sense why it’s not more popular, especially being so close to Brazil’s other world-renowned cities.

Direct Flights From 2 Major U.S. Cities

Azul plane on runway

Book a trip to now to Minas Gerais and enjoy it before the secret is out! No U.S. airlines fly here, but those in Florida can hop on direct flights to Minas Gerais capital city Belo Horizonte.

Of course, it’s easy to connect through Florida as it’s one of the most popular vacation spots in the U.S.

Brazil’s own beloved Azul Brazilian Airlines offers flights out of Orlando and Fort Lauderdale and a new report confirms this may be the calm before the storm with a 60% surge in connectivity to this lesser-known region.

Worth The Price Of Admission

Liberty Square in Belo Horizonte, Brazil

Safety concerns and the hassle of obtaining a visa can be deterring to travelers and since that’s the case, Brazil is not doing themselves any favors to boost tourism.

That being said, Minas Gerais is definitely worth the price of admission for the country’s newly implemented e-visa requirements.

Although just 3 simple steps to obtain, nobody likes having to fork over extra cash before stepping foot in the country.

That’s why it’s celebrated by travelers from popular destinations like Turkiye, who drop their entry fees, even if it’s just $20.

For Brazil, however, priced at approximately 80 bucks, you won’t even remember paying it if visiting Minas Gerais as this area is very affordable once you arrive.

Much Safer Than Rio And Budget Friendly

Mercado Central in Belo Horizonte, Brazil

If 2 things immediately stand out for travelers, it’s gotta be safety and affordability. Minas Gerais checks off both boxes no matter where you go…and there’s a ton to explore.

Obviously, Rio isn’t considered safe for tourists at this time, but Brazil is just too good to pass up elsewhere.

The U.S. Consulate’s latest alert was mainly focused on Rio, while the U.S. State Department hasn’t updated its take on Brazil since October 2023, when it was designated a ‘Level 2′ destination.

Not only is Minas Gerais safe, but it’s very affordable for hotels, shopping, transportation, and, last but not least, food.

The Foodie Capital Of Brazil

People preparing street food Pamonha in Belo Horizonte

Brazil is so much more than steakhouses and açaí bowls. There is no better place in Brazil to delight your tastebuds than Minas Gerais.

You may picture yourself sipping caipirinhas on a beautiful Rio beach, but what about a rooftop bar in the sprawling city of Belo Horizonte? Not so bad, right?

This city can make a mean cocktail, but the menus of endless savory food are unmatched. From street vendors to fine dining, the only way you can go wrong is if you don’t stop at the always-busy Mercado Central for an authentic meal.

Freshness is the main ingredient of Brazilian cuisine and conversely the very reason it’s not more popular in the U.S. as importing isn’t feasible.

A Mix Of Old And New

Passengers awaiting train Belo Horizonte

Belo Horizonte is very well equipped to get around, even if you decide to venture outside the city limits.

Uber is popular and so is the Metro – both very cheap. The centrally located bus station can get you to one of Brazil’s most historical towns just 90 minutes from the urban sprawl of Belo Horizonte.

Ouro Preto is an absolute must-visit. Dating back to the 1600s, this UNESCO heritage site oozes charm and history away from the bright city lights with beautiful mountains and winding, cobbled streets.

Travelers can spend their day perusing this breathtaking town, then come back to the city for a fun night out.

An Underrated Digital Nomad Destination

Digital nomad with laptop and coffee

Not to overshadow any other great places in Minas Gerais – as there are many – but Belo Horizonte and Ouro Preto are the two you should focus on.

Both fit the bill for digital nomads with cheap stays, great weather, friendly locals, and ample ways to keep busy.

It’s not unreasonable to find Airbnbs in the $600 per month range in both. Although Belo Horizonte is incomparably larger, both can handle the digital nomad life.

Really, it would be up to you to decide between an action-packed city or a laid-back, timeless town teeming with history to make your base.

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